Thinner cards: unembossed

The etched-out name, card number, etc. in relief makes it possible to use a debit/credit card offline—but makes it a lot thicker as well (almost 2x as thick).

In 2017, I believe it is acceptable to have cards that are electronic only. Speaking from personal experience, I have used (and seen) a credit card imprinter only twice in my 26 years of life.
(Note: offline payments are still possible; the machine stores these until it goes online again. The iprinting scenario really is in extreme cases only.)

I have seen a card with the card number etc. etched in once, which was thus as thick as a normal card. The card was marked as ‘electronic use only’ or something, but it worked perfectly well on an everyday basis.

My wallet is a card-only wallet, and it is slightly annoying that all my bank cards take up almost double thickness. If only there were a company out there not afraid to question established norms… :wink:


What if you went to your favorite restaurant and whilst you were eating their PDQ went down and the only thing they had was that old swipe machine (which gets sent out with PDQ machines from Barclays still) and you didn’t have enough cash?

You’d be stuck right, that or have the inconvenience of going out and finding a cash machine…

1 Like

Or shopping in a supermarket. ASDA had their systems go down and brought out the old manual machines with NCR paper forms in so you needed embossed cards or were forced to pay in cash

:ok_hand:t2: These are the exact use cases this would hinder—and it is my opinion that the scarcity of them makes it an okay risk.

In that case a) one would probably carry a second payment card; b) withdrawing cash is a possibility (albeit inconvenient, in that extreme scenario acceptable to me); c) the restaurant will have to find a solution.

Worst case: ASDA makes you leave without your shopping. Then you can go to Co-op, they’re more ethical anyway :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I work at Apple where our payment systems are as high-tech as they get and about twice a year we experience global outages where we have to use manual paperwork and card imprint machines.

Although you don’t experience it often as a consumer, it does actually happen more often than you realise.


Something that instantly comes to mind - how to blind people tell their cards apart? I am assuming the etching plays a part in this, even if it isn’t specifically there for that purpose?

If you wonder how blind people use the app, iOS and Android both have built in screen readers.

Monzo does ok at this, if anyone notices any issues you could add them to my previous bug report :slight_smile:

RBS (and their brands NatWest and Holt’s) have pioneered accessible cards. Holt’s became the first bank to issue them as standard to every customer.


Those look fantastic.

1 Like

I’m curious why they can’t just write down the card number if the electronic systems are down. Seems much easier than the card imprint machine and the fraud risk is exactly the same.

not just Holt’s but Drummond’s, Adams, Coutts, etc.

I think the imprint machine

  1. verifies the card was present (people could technically commit fraud through manual paperwork)
  2. prevent human error (I regularly mix up numbers when I’m asked to rewrite them)

I had one of these with Halifax when I was a teenager with their Visa Electron card. Non-embossed with an etched printed card number with the words ‘ELECTRONIC USE ONLY’.

The problem I had with the etched printed cards instead of the embossed ones was that the numbers would rub off/fade over time and become nearly illegible. I still have the account (although I don’t use it) and the numbers still rub/fade off. You can tilt it to the light to see the extremely subtle etching when they printed it but embossed is so much easier and clearer to read when it fades.


It’s been four years since I’ve seen an imprinter used… And unembossed cards can still be used by writing the number (yes that has liability shift and price risks, but so does using an imprinter).

P.S. do you think the same of really nice unembossed cards like the N26 Black, Amex US Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve?

1 Like

I’ve seen (well read) of it been used when a major UK supermarket which I won’t name. (Asda) had a power cut. Of course no card machines or card readers would work. So they had to get out the imprinters. Had a unembossed card? Kindly leave (without your shopping) and away you go…

Yes the words electronic use only bring out a cold sweat…Plus the wait for authorisation…Urgh :no_good_man:

I had a Solo debit card as a teenager so the pain was real.

Yes I do think the same thing of ALL unebossed cards I’m sorry but they look as cheap as chips. Loot and N26 cards however do look decent. (Are the Loot cards unembosssed?)

Nope the Loot cards are embossed.


UPS, batteries and mobile phones exist. We’re in 2017 and soon will be in 2018. :wink:

Not to mention again you can simply write down the numbers should there be a need of doing a “manual” transaction.


Who said anything about ‘electronic use only’? Not all unembossed cards are printed that… Most aren’t.

I remember them being written on all Visa Electron cards and on Solo Debit cards. :slightly_smiling_face:


It’s cheaper to do it manually. Less overheads you see. Yep it is 2017 soon to be 2018 but the bottom line is forever…

1 Like

Yep indeed, Visa Electron cards (which are quite popular in France for “basic” bank accounts with no overdrafts) all have “Electronic use only” on them.


Yes, that’s a feature of the Visa Electron and Solo schemes, not of the card being unembossed :slight_smile: that said, I do think you’d get more hesitation as they’d have no proof they say a card at all if they just wrote the number down. Still, in a pinch it can be done.

1 Like